Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Rosh Hashana is my favorite holiday. But more than the food and the family-time, what makes this holiday my favorite is the atmosphere. It's this something I feel inside of me, in my house, in my town and nationwide. It is a one of a kind holiday spirit. As I said before, a Jewish holiday in Israel is not like the ones in the States: it is felt e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. The stores are decorated, the people are smiling, and holiday songs are played on the radio. In Israel, every holiday carries the entire nation on a swirl of a joyful spirit. But Rosh Hashana's swirl is the best of them all. From the moment I wake up to the second I fall asleep, I feel like I'm in heaven. Ask anyone that knows me well enough and they'll tell you- in Rosh Hashana I am less cynical than ever. In the name of the holiday spirit, I will make an attempt to show you what it is that I see in the beginning of the Hebrew year…
First of all, I want to point out I am not religious, and so when I talk about a "spiritual experience", I am not referring to anything God-ish. My spiritual holiday experience does exist, but in a different way. It's that something in the air that gives me the feeling life is too good to be true, and I have every reason to celebrate it. Here are the three things I love about Rosh Hashana:
The first thing I love about Rosh Hashana is the radio. Every Rosh Hashana eve, from noon to 4pm, the biggest radio station, Galgalatz, ranks the best Hebrew songs of the year, and hands out awards for the best female singer, best male singer, best musical group and the "breakthrough" of the year. It's just like Billboard, only it happens once a year on such a scale. During those four hours, I am wearing my headphones. I usually work out during the first hour, and do some holiday shopping for my family at the mall at the second hour. In the next hour I walk down the streets, soaking in the holiday atmosphere as I greet my neighbors with a "happy holiday" greeting, and watch the people get ready for their big family dinners. The fourth hour is my quality time with my mother. Every year, we rank the songs together, and then listen to the top ten songs (the last hour) together, while cooking for the holiday dinner. This is most definitely my favorite time of the day, and my favorite type of mother-daughter time.
The second thing I love about Rosh Hashana is the optimism. In every holiday people feel slightly elevated, but Rosh Hashana makes everyone fly high in the sky. First of all, for three days, there is almost no bad news. The newspapers are filled with special interviews and very optimistic summaries of the year. Almost as if all that's wrong in the world faded away. Moreover, the people themselves seem to be less angry and anxious. It's almost as if we live in a Disney movie for the three days of holiday. The usually rude, easily triggered Israelis seem to forget their stereotypes, and appreciate their friends, family, neighbors and strangers more than the usual. I love that nationwide optimism. It's nice to know the world is not only crime, nuclear weapons and diplomatic issues. In a "regular" day, we sometimes tend to forget the good, and make more room for the bad. We take our loved ones for granted, we pay no attention to our attitude towards strangers, and we read mostly negative stories in the papers. One of the outcomes of this bursting optimism, and another thing that makes me love holidays, is the fact that this is the only time of year I almost enjoy traffic. During Rosh Hashana eve, the roads of Israel are packed with families trying to get to their dinner in time. I may not know this for a fact, but I have a pretty solid feeling every single car plays the same station, and in that way, all of Israel shares a moment. The songs playing on the radio, along with the atmosphere in the air, makes the record-breaking traffic bearable and almost nice. So bearable that it's the only time you hear almost no honks and curse words. Rosh Hashana is also a time of giving. It is the time when we put our own problems aside and open our wallets and our hearts for the ones in need, in order for them to have a decent holiday dinner as well. This, to me, is simply beautiful, and Israel at its best. The fact Rosh Hashana is ten days prior to Yom Kippur, along with it being the first holiday to open the longest holiday period of the year after five months of drought- makes our thoughts and interactions extra positive.
The third thing I love about Rosh Hashana is the family-time. During this holiday, I almost never leave the house, and neither do my brothers. The result is the best family time you could ever think of. Unlike the average Friday dinner, where we are all anxious to meet up with our friends, the Rosh Hashana dinner always takes longer. Everyone seems to have all the time in the world, so we sit together in the living room and sing as my father and brother play the guitar. Our Rosh Hashana dinners are also in a very big scale. Usually, there are about 80 of us staying at my aunt's, which makes this holiday dinner extra special for all of us. During the two days of holiday, the family-time continues, as we go for lunch at another aunt's house, and spend some time at home together, sometimes watching old family videos.
I hope you all find what you love most about this special holiday, and may you have the best of times during the upcoming Hebrew Year. חג שמח!
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11.26.13 at 1:09 pm | Netanyahu goes meatless, the IDF goes green,. . .
12.10.13 at 12:55 pm | What you are about to read sounds like a big. . . (70)
12.6.13 at 12:23 pm | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . . (34)
11.15.12 at 10:32 am | It is a solid fact that Operation Pillar of. . . (30)
September 17, 2012 | 11:00 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Warren Weinstein, an American Jew, was captured by Al Qaeda a year ago. After turning to Obama for help, he now asks Netanyahu to give his captors all they want and release him back to his home. The leader of Al Qaeda demanded the release of all Al Qaeda and Taliban members which are held in the US. In addition, he demanded that the United States and its allies would cease from air-bombing Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza. Last May, Al Qaeda published a video of Weinstein where he turned to President Obama, asking him to answer their demands and have him released. After he refused, another video was published, this time with Weinstein addressing Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has yet to reply.
* Eli Zborowski, Chairman of the American Society for Yad Vashem, passed away last week in New York at the age of 87. Zborowski survived the Holocaust as a teenager, and after his father was murdered by the Nazis, helped save his family members, and many other Jews. Zborowski dedicated his life to the memory of the Holocaust and to helping the survivors from his residence in New York. In 1974, he founded Martyrdom & Resistance, a periodical devoted to the Holocaust. That same year, the Zborowskis endowed the United States’ first academic chair in Holocaust Studies, at Yeshiva University, New York. He was appointed to the US Holocaust Memorial Council by President Jimmy Carter and reappointed by President Reagan. He was also appointed to the NY permanent Commission on the Holocaust by Mayor Edward Koch. In 1981 Zborowski founded the American Society for Yad Vashem and served as its Chairman until his death on September 10th.
* Rosh Hashana is a time of giving. It is the time when we put aside our own problems and open our hearts and wallets in order to help needy families make it through the holidays. We all give a few Shekels to at least one organization, but there are always those who give a little bit more: Last week it has been published that a 7 year old girl and a 13 year old boy gave an extra special donation to the "Pitchon Lev" organization, helping families under financial stress. The seven year old girl decided to donate all of her savings (about 150 Dollars), telling the volunteers she wants children her age to have something to eat this holiday. Later on that day, a 13 year old boy came in, and donated some of his Bar-Mitzvah money saying he won't be able to enjoy the holiday while knowing there are people who have nothing to eat at that time.
* Last week, a very exciting and tearful gathering took place in Tel Aviv: 60 survivors of Buchenwald and Dora Mittelbau concentration camps met together for the first time. The meeting was organized by the International Buchenwald Committee, and there the survivors met with some of the people in charge of maintaining the memory of the concentration camps.
* Turns out there are musicians who believe boycotting Israel is not a solution for anything. After experiencing many disappointments from musicians who caved in to politics and cancelled their scheduled concerts in Israel, it was really pleasing to hear this "trend" did not catch on with all foreign musicians. In fact, turns out some actually cleared their busy schedules in order to discuss this issue. At the 2012 Jerusalem Music Conference, a group of musicians from all around the globe rejected the idea of boycotting Israel in one of the panels held there.
September 14, 2012 | 1:00 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
For this weekend, I would like to recommend a newbie in the Israeli music industry. Her name is Maya Unger, she is 26 years old, and she is not yet famous, but soon to be. For sure. After encountering one of her songs, I fell in love with her fun, catchy music, and decided I had to share. Who knows, maybe in a few years when she is as famous as Justin Bieber (at least!) you would be able to say you spotted that talent before everyone else…
Here are her first two singles. Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend and happy Rosh Hashana!
Lasim Hakol Me'achor (putitng everything behind)
Kmo Halom (Like a Dream)
September 13, 2012 | 11:32 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
When the lights in the theater turned on, after a screening of Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love ended, I started visualizing my boyfriend and me wandering the streets of Rome, breathing romance. Just as if I was struck by magic, I couldn’t get Rome out of my head. About a month later, we were on a plane to one of the world’s most beautiful cities. The beauty of Rome is not only in its romantic atmosphere or magnificent buildings. It’s much, much more. Rome holds a combination of old and new, of ancient and modern, which makes it almost unbelievable, even when standing in the middle of it all.
Rome is a different kind of experience, which stimulates all five senses. In just six days, I got to see, touch, taste and smell like never before. I saw buildings that changed the face of architecture, and creations that changed the world of art. For Rome was not only a millenarian empire, it was an artistic empire, an architectural empire, and a religious empire as well. Its impact on the world we now know is indescribable, and to witness all of the above in 2012 is unbelievable no less. When walking the streets of Rome, you can never know what Piazza, fountain or an ancient Roman pole would reveal to you. The combination of architecture, history, art, food and love, managed to make the heat of August all forgotten, and make this vacation simply the best. In fact, even after describing Rome in two whole paragraphs, I still feel I didn’t really describe everything that’s Rome…
Besides the Italian experiences, this vacation, like any other, had a separate Jewish/Israeli experience. The first rule when going abroad is very simple: don’t pack anything that has Hebrew letters on it. It seems a bit strange at first, but we all know that wearing clothing or an accessory with Hebrew letters will simply draw more attention to our Israeli identity, and it is something we wish to hide abroad. Same goes for any Jewish outer identification, such as jewelry with Star of David, or a Yakama (some wear a hat to cover it). When I write it down right now, I must admit it looks weird, unnatural almost. I mean, why would anyone want to hide his or her identity? But bottom line is, it is a natural part of our packing process. The proof to that is that just now, after God knows how many flights, I notice how strange it is.
Perhaps those of you who’ve ever been abroad went through the same process. Perhaps you haven’t. I am still not sure if it’s a Jewish thing or just an Israeli thing. If it’s the fear of bombing or the fear of Anti-Semitism I get every time I land in Europe. For some reason I didn’t feel it as much when I was in the States. It could be because it is a safer place, but maybe it’s because I was usually amongst a Jewish community there. Both types of fear, the Israeli and the Jewish, is a common feeling amongst Israelis who travel abroad. It’s very rational and most certainly didn’t pop out of nowhere: as you all know, there had been many incidents aimed both for Jews and Israelis. The latest occurring in Burgas, almost a month ago, and took the lives of five Israelis. Six months ago, there was that murder in Toulouse, which dragged other crimes of hate towards Jews in the area. These are merely a few examples of attacks towards Jews and Israelis in Europe, and the realization and actualization of that fear.
In spite of that fear, we don’t walk with our heads down, hiding in the shadows of the European streets. We don’t think about that fear every minute of every day, and we most certainly enjoy our vacations. For most of my vacation days in Rome, I had a blast, thinking of my Judaism only when trying to fight the Ham attack that took over every single menu. I almost didn’t think of what happened and what could happen. That is until I came across a swastika, painted on a wall in one of the side-streets. This brought everything back to my attention. From this point on, I was grateful for being able to enjoy my vacation as much as I did, and landing back in Israel, safe and sound. This swastika reminded me, more than any article, that outside of my home in Israel, I am never completely safe from hate. And I am not referring to any type of hate, because wherever we are, hate exists. I am talking about the scariest type of hate. The one that nearly destroyed us as Jews, and the one that is threatening us as Israelis today.
That trip reminded me that it is important to appreciate what you have and who you are. That after 2000 years of depression and disasters, we managed to stay united under the warm hug of Judaism, and that there’s anything we cannot survive. But this trip also brought back to my attention something a little girl with red shoes once said: there’s no place like home.
September 11, 2012 | 12:50 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
I was only 11 at the time, but 9/11 is a date I'll never forget. I was at home alone, busy with my homework, when the phone rang. I picked it up, and on the other side was my aunt, and she sounded hysterical: "Noga! Where is your father?" –"Abroad", I replied. "Somewhere In the States. New-York, I think". –"Oh my God, do you know if he is okay?" I replied I didn't hear from him that day, but I guess he is just fine, and she hung up. I had no idea what was the conversation about, so I decided to wait for my mother to return home and ask her then. Meanwhile, I turned on the television, and looked for something interesting to see. When I reached one of the news channels, I couldn't look away. In front of me, on the screen, were images too rough to see. People screaming and crying to the sight of the twin towers slowly collapse. The reporter analyzed the situation, but I wasn't listening. I was captured by the unbelievable pictures, of one of the darkest days of the 21st century. It wasn't long until I realized my aunt's panic. My father is there, god knows how close to the smoke and flames. I called my mother, and she hurried to calm me down. My father was safe and sound and in Florida. It wasn't until a few days later when he told me he was supposed to be in New-York, at that time, having a meeting in one of the towers, but eventually experienced some change in plans.
It could be faith, a higher power, or merely luck, but the bottom line is that my father was saved and got to live a happy life in the next 11 years (and counting). Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the thousands of people who woke up that day without knowing it will be their last. Ever since that day, 9/11 became a day of both memory and salutation. On that day, for 11 years, we bow our head in memory of the ones who were lost forever, and salute to the heroes who saved lives, and helped preventing a maybe bigger attack. But the most admirable aspect of the post 9/11 US, is the fact that in it is not just one day a year. 9/11 is everywhere, every day to everyone: from memorial sites, to special programs, to unity with those whose world collapsed and never restructured- you are all united in this memory for 11 years.
At this point, I just want to let you know we remember 9/11 too. We also bow our heads in memory of this unforgettable day and wish it didn't exist. We hold your hands and embrace you all, in hope to never witness such a disaster ever again. But in order to never letting this repeat itself, we all must stand together in the battle against terror. In the past several years, it continues to grow and the threat for all countries of the world is getting more and more solid. Terror continues to grow, and the only way to stop it is to stand together. Together we are a wall, stronger than any brick or metal. The fight against terror may sometimes seem like an impossible fight, but things are always better once you know you're not alone out there. Together we will make a better world, where our children will spend a lifetime not knowing what terror is, remembering the 21st century as the day the world said: "enough". May you all be strong, and may 9/11 always refer only to the year 2001.
September 10, 2012 | 10:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Israel's Beauty and the Geek's semi-finals turned out to be more than your everyday reality show episode. The final four couples visited Turkey on a very special mission: to try and make things right between the two states. As most of you already know, things aren't going so great for Israel and Turkey. After maintaining a good, healthy relationship, based mostly on mutual tourism, a line of diplomatic mishaps brought the relationship between the allies to a new low-point. In fact, for the past year or so, the state has recommended Israelis avoid taking vacations there. In the popular show's semi-finals, the couples took the not-so-secure trip over there, and became Israeli ambassadors, while trying to bring the relationship status back to "friends". After performing various tasks, they did not succeed in bringing things back to the way they were, but they defiantly took some risks even the best politicians never took.
* Research made by the world's health organization ranked the Israeli youth number three in the world's happiness rate. The research, taken once every four years, tested the mental and social health amongst teenagers from 34 states. In the category testing the contentment from life, the Israeli teenagers were ranked third, while their peers from Macedonia and Armenia are the only ones happier. But while considered happy with their lives, the Israeli teenagers are also the fifth most angry in the world. Well, when it is summer ten months a year, who can blame them?
* A commercial German company, selling puzzles and posters of famous German sites and scenery, decided to add two very controversial sites to their collection, and on the way, hurt many feelings. Under the title of "Germany's most beautiful sites", along with 55 thousand places, the company added a purchasable poster or puzzle of the concentration camps Dachau and Buchenwald. The German-Jewish community expressed their surprise and rage with the new addition, which, in their words, is disrespectful towards the memory of the tens of thousands of people who were brutally murdered there during the Holocaust. Dachau was the first concentration camp built by the Nazis, and Buchenwald was the largest concentration camp built on German land. Today, the places function as memorial and educational sites.
* More achievements for the Israeli Paralympic team! The games in London ended with five more Israeli athletes stood on the podium, and joined the two bronze medal winners from last week: Inbal Pezaro (two bronze medals for swimming) and Itzhak Mamistvalov (one bronze medal for swimming).Pezaro won a third bronze medal (Wonem's 100m freestyle S5), Doron Shaziri won a silver medal for shooting (Men's 50m. rifle 3 positions SH1), Koby Lion won a silver medal for Cycling (Men's time trial H1), and Noam Gershony brought Israel's first gold medal since the games in Athens, 2004. Gershony was injured severely during the second Lebanon war, where he served as a pilot. After winning first place in Wheelchair tennis, he said in interviews he is now "at the top of the world." Gershony and his partner, Shraga Weinberg, also won bronze medal for wheelchair tennis Quad Doubles.
* Rama Burshtein made history last week at the 69th Venice Film Festival. The filmmaker became the first Israeli director with a film presented in the formal contest of one of the three most significant, important film festivals worldwide (Cannes, Venice and Berlin). As if this achievement is not big enough, Burshtein is also the first Haredi filmmaker whose film is presented outside of the community. Her film, Lemale' et Ha'Chalal (Fill the Void), was screened last Sunday and got very loud applause from the audience, which lasted about ten minutes. But it wasn't just the audience who thought this film was a state of the art creation, as critics' compliments started to appear in the papers and online. The film is nominated for the prestigious "Golden Lion" award, and tells of a Haredi family dealing with a tragedy as the daughter dies while giving birth.
* An on the same matter, Hadas Yaron, a 22 year-old waitress-actress who played the lead in Rama Burshtein's film, won the Best Actress award in the festival. Yaron returned to Israel after the movie premier in Venice, and went back to her job at a local coffee shop. On Friday, she received the life changing phone call, with the announcement on her win. On Saturday, she flew back to Italy to receive the prestigious award. Truly a Cinderella story...
Rama Burshtein and the cast of Lemale' er HaChalal at the 69th Venice Film Festival
September 7, 2012 | 11:54 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This week I'll make an exception and recommend a song. In 2002, Ariel Horowitz, son of Israel's greatest songwriter and composer- Naomi Shemer, released a single from his second album. Horowitz was already quite famous at the time, and continued to maintain a respected musical career. But from his total of five albums, his 2002 single, Renée, is his most famous to this day, and considered one of the most iconic songs in the Israeli culture. Renée was written about Renée Zellweger, whom Horowitz had a crush on after watching Jerry Maguire. This song is so good and so smart, I decided to translate it to English, for you to enjoy, because it's not every day you find a song with lyrics as good as the melody. Rhymes and wordplay not included, so it's not a good as it sounds in Hebrew. However, this song tells of a man who decided to peruse his dream, telling Renée Zellweger he loves her, and take her with him back to Israel. With the combination of wit, innocence and insistence, the hero of the story tells us his entire plan, from deciding to leave Israel, through finding Renée and finally- giving her his big speech. The story is left open, as we have no idea what her answer is. In real life, however, I can reassure you this story remained in Horowitz's dreams.
I went to see an American movie and fell in love with the actress.
On my way back home, in the cab, I was thinking to myself:
why not pack all my belongings, thank my mother for all the years, and just go?
On the wing of the airplane, the homeland's flag shine,
My beloved doesn't yet have a clue
That I, with determination of a unavoidable faith, am closing the gap, and I got an address and a photo.
Your life is about to change completely, because I am on my way.
The custom clerk in New York, with politeness packed with alienation
Wants me to tell him the purpose of my visit.
'I come from love', I say.
To ocean would ever tear us apart, Renée .
Your life is about to change completely, because I am on my
A restaurant, a black dress, a confusing cleavage.
Good thing I prepared my speech in advance, in Israel
Touch me, Renée, and you'll see, I am not made of Plastic.
You'll have a real life with me:
On Thursday nights your will lay in bad, reading a book,
While the guys and I will watch Basketball.
We'll live in a small apartment in Motzkin (a small town in Israel)
And once a year, you'll make a movie with Ivgi (Moshe Ivgi, one if Israel's greatest actors).
Your life is about to change completely, because I am on my way.
September 4, 2012 | 10:00 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Yesterday's headline made no room for mistakes: "A secret message from the US government to Iran: don't attack us if Israel attacks you." According to the paper's main story, Obama's government sent a secret message to Iran, through two European countries, asking Ahmadinejad to avoid attacking US military bases in the Middle East. The article also said that Obama stated he would not support an Israeli attack in Iran, and would not support any one-sided attack by Israel. Lately, there had been much speculation regarding a possible future attack in Iran, but this one caused quite a commotion.
In the past few months, we got used to reading almost every speculation regarding an Israeli attack on Iran. Day after day, the main articles in leading national newspapers went through the various possibilities for an attack. Sometimes, they referred to Israel's military options, sometimes to Obama's speeches about the sanctions, and sometimes to the failure that is the Obama- Netanyahu relationship. Due to the overdose of articles and new-old-not-so-breaking-news, we got rather indifferent to them, knowing the papers are drying up the Iran- attack well in the search of a non-existing sanctions. The articles mentioning the US government were the most boring of them all, because they were always the same: Obama is calling for sanctions, and asking Netanyahu to contain the attack for a little while. This is exactly why yesterday's headline was anything but boring.
This reported "secret message" meant that our one powerful ally, our solid backer, will not support us, in case of an attack in Iran. It meant that Obama doesn't really care we are under a life threat as Iran continues working on a nuclear weapon, while Ahmadinejad is telling whoever wants to hear that he wishes to kill all Israelis. It meant the one person we could trust to help us win this scary battle is not really there. It seems as if Obama doesn't trust Israel to attack Iran only in case there will be no other choice, and is willing to abandon the strong, six decades long friendship with Israel. More than the feeling of betrayal, I felt fear. This message was plain and simple, and shook us up. Of all the many speculations regarding the future attack, this one was by far the scariest. The US was the one partner we knew would help us win every battle and help us get through the roughest of times, and in one headline, the security was gone. After reading about the Obama-Netanyahu decreasing relationship recently, this story appeared as the bottom line and basically sealed the deal: the US-Israel relationship cannot be saved. We WILL lose the war against Iran.
This story was discussed on social networks and in each and every Israeli's mind. It made me restless, and for the first time, I was worried. It was only later in the evening when the US government replied to the story, when the White House spokesman Jay Carney told Reuters that this story is incorrect on every level. On the eight o'clock news, the anchor reported that US government officials blamed the false news on the Republicans, saying this is a part of their presidential campaign. I know the people behind this message probably won't read this, but I have something I want to say to them: Sorry, but this time you've gone too far. I get why the approach towards Israel will affect the support of the Jewish communities for your presidential candidate, but creating such a false story meant taking this election campaign too far. Just to make is clear: I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, I am Israeli. I know we are far away, and not as many as you, but yesterday, you got many of us scared. Your little prank hurt the "little people", plain and simple. We also matter. We are not only a pawn in your campaigning game, and I can only hope both candidates fully understand this. Don't play with us, because everything you do, for better and for worse, affects us.